14 Places You Must Visit in 2023

Mairi Scobie ·June 19, 2023Reading time: 12 minutes

Time to stop daydreaming. Turn your travel plans into reality and let us be your guide for some Scottish inspiration!

These Scottish gems have huge amounts to offer and several of them have exciting things to shout about in 2023.

  1. Dunbar Dunbar

    Dunbar high street and Toolbooth.

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    With a coastal outlook and train connections to Edinburgh, you can enjoy this seaside town and hop on the train to the capital too.

    Things to do: Get ready to stretch those legs and take on the Cliff Top Trail. The walk is perfect for family outings and takes just under an hour to complete. You’ll pass by redstone cliffs, a golf course, Dunbar Harbour and down the High Street where you’ll find popular attractions along the way including John Muir’s Birthplace. Explore the route on two wheels by hiring a bike from Belhaven Bikes. If you’re feeling adventurous, ditch dry land and go surfing. Brave the chilly sea temperatures with Coast to Coast Surf School who offer surf lessons and courses on Belhaven beach, or enjoy an adrenaline rush with Foxlake Adventures.

    Travel: Dunbar is well connected by rail with regular services running daily across Scotland.

    Food & Drink: Seek shelter at The Brig & Barrel. You’ll be served with a warm and exceptional service with delicious hearty pub fare. The pub is dog-friendly too so make sure to bring your beloved pooch along.

    Stay: Dunbar, Longniddry or North Berwick

  2. Isle of Raasay Skye & Lochalsh

    Last ferry of the day from Skye, arriving at the Isle of Raasay's impressive new slipway/

    © Richard Elliot, all rights reserved.

    Raasay is the isle on everyone’s wish list at the moment with its recent award from Conde Nast Traveller as one of the ‘Best Islands to Visit’.

    Things to do: You’ll quickly find yourself on one of the most beautiful small islands of Scotland. Admire Skye’s Cuillin mountain range and beyond to the Outer Hebrides on clear days. Make a visit to the Isle of Raasay Distillery or climb the isle’s peak, Dun Caan.

    Food & Drink: Tuck into delicious dishes at Raasay House Hotel.

    Travel: It can be reached by a short 25-minute ferry ride (running regularly every day) from Sconser on the Isle of Skye.

    Stay: Isle of Skye

  3. Aberfeldy Aberfeldy

    The Birks of Aberfeldy is a circular walk through mature mixed woodland on the western outskirts of Aberfeldy. The Birks of Aberfeldy were named after

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    Feel a sense of adventure in Aberfeldy. There are castles to be explored, wildlife to meet and lots of whiskies that are waiting to be tasted.

    Things to do: Follow in the footsteps of our National Bard along The Birks of Aberfeldy. Situated just on the outskirts of the town, this circular walk takes you through mixed woodland where you’ll find lots of pretty waterfalls along the way. It’s really no surprise that this beauty spot inspired Robert Burns to write the poem The Birks Of Aberfeldy when he visited the area with his friend William Nicol in 1787. For history buffs, take a step back in time and learn more about the Menzies Clan at Castle Menzies or spot your favourite animals on an off-road adventure with Highland Safaris & Red Deer Centre.

    Travel: Travelling by car is the best way to see Aberfeldy in all its glory and is served by an extensive number of road networks across Scotland’s cities. You can use a combination of both train and bus by getting the train to Perth or Pitlochry.

    Food & Drink: tuck into delicious dishes at Thyme Bistro at Errichel

    Stay: Aberfeldy or Kenmore

  4. Dundee Dundee & Angus

    Cyclist at Dundee Waterfront

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    From museums and art galleries to urban beaches and open-top tour buses, the city offers lots of inspiration for your next trip. Did you know it’s also a UNESCO City of Design?

    Things to do: the V&A Dundee turns 5 featuring new stylish exhibitions! Discover the history behind Scotland’s most iconic fabric at the Tartan exhibition. Learn more about how this textile revolutionised the fashion, film and art industries around the world up to the present day. Next door, climb aboard the RRS Discovery at Discovery Point and follow in the footsteps of Captain Scott and his crew on their remarkable journey in the Antarctic. The attraction has recently undergone a major refurbishment, creating a new public art gallery with a 360° panoramic view over the city and the River Tay, which also features the brand-new art installation, Gaia.

    Travel: Dundee is easy to get by rail, with services running regularly from across the UK.

    Food & Drink: Vandal & CoMain Eats Daily Deals and Dukes Corner

    Stay: Sleeperz Hotel DundeeMalmaison or Hotel Indigo

  5. Inverclyde, Ayrshire & Firth of Clyde Islands Ayrshire & Arran

    Dunure Castle

    This part of the west coast is bursting with great things to see and do. Enjoy accessible islands reachable by public transport from Glasgow, fascinating maritime and cultural history, pretty beaches and even a clifftop castle.

    Ayrshire is home to some truly scenic coastal towns which are lovely to visit and get to know.

    Things to do: The new driving route, The Coig, is made up of five unique routes stretching from Ayrshire, Arran and Cumbrae to Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and Bute.

    Travel: The blissful isles of Cumbrae and Bute are both within an hour of Glasgow each with regular, short ferry crossings.

    Stay: Girvan or Troon.

  6. Caithness Caithness and North Coast Sutherland area

    The Castle of Mey was built by George, the 4th Earl of Caithness, in 1573. HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother purchased the castle in 1952. The cast

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    This eastern tip of north Scotland, part of the famous North Coast 500 driving route, is an untouched and beautiful part of Scotland, just waiting to be discovered.

    Did you know it has the highest concentration of brochs and ancient monuments in Scotland?

    Things to do: There are some incredible geological features here too such as the Whaligoe Steps, sea caves and castles on cliff edges, including Castle Sinclair Girnigoe and Keiss Castle.

    Stay: John o’ Groats or Wick.

  7. Clackmannanshire Loch Lomond, The Trossachs, Stirling & Forth Valley

    The Wallace Monument in Winter with the Ochil Hills as a backdrop

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved

    Sandwiched between the Trossachs, Stirling and Perthshire, Clackmannanshire is full of little surprises and scenic spots. The Ochil Hills are a quiet paradise with far-stretching views, whilst the Alva and Dollar Glens lying at the foot of the hills are ideal for leafy, forest walks with waterfalls around every corner.

    Things to do: Take in the historical highlights that include the 700-year old Alloa Tower or Castle Campbell, the Lowland stronghold of the powerful Clan Campbell in Dollar.

    Food & Drink: Spend time wandering around the pretty loch at Gartmorn Dam, and enjoy a cup of tea at Dam Good Coffee.

    Stay: Alloa, Tillicoultry or Menstrie.

  8. Ballater Ballater

    An aerial view of Ballater on the River Dee in Deeside; Aberdeenshire.

    © VisitScotland / Richard Elliot

    Situated in the heart of Royal Deeside, this beauty spot was a favourite with Queen Victoria describing it as, “my dear paradise in the Highlands”. Today, you’ll find visitors enjoying Ballater’s wide range of outdoor pursuits.

    Things to do: Visit Balmoral Castle, the Scottish residence of the British Royal family. From April until August, the grounds, gardens and exhibitions are open to the public. A trip to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without some whisky tasting. Enjoy a distillery tour at Royal Lochnagar Distillery where you’ll learn the history behind one of Scotland’s most exclusive whiskies.

    You’ll no doubt have a summer to remember in Ballater. The second Thursday in August marks The Ballater Highland Games where you can expect lots of fun. From piping competitions and Highland Dancing to caber tossing and tug o’ war. You might even be lucky enough to rub shoulders with the Royals as King Charles III has previously attended.

    Travel: Ballater can be easily reached by car or public transport from across Scotland.

    Food & Drink: Bridge House Café and Rothesay Rooms

    Stay: Ballater

  9. Dumfries Dumfries & Galloway

    The Statue of Robert Burns, Dumfries

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    From the town, you are just moments away from making memories. The Annandale Distillery is a short drive away and makes one of the newest whiskies in Scotland, with a state-of-the-art visitor centre and delicious café.

    Things to do: Further south, travel to Gretna Green, just a short train journey from Dumfries to discover the romantic spot where young couples have travelled for centuries to tie the knot. There’s also great retail therapy at the Gretna Gateway outlet shopping centre.

    To the west, head to the Galloway Forest Park for walks, wildlife and adventure. The Solway Coast is also on your doorstep for bright sunny days, with brilliant beaches and coastal walks with views for miles around – on clear days, you can even see out to Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.

    Food & Drink: The Victorian town of Moffat is a great place to head for a lunch, a trip to the woollen mill and a chance to try the local specialty, Moffat Toffee!

    Stay: Dumfries

  10. Kelso Scottish Borders

    Kelso Square in the town centre.

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    You’ll quickly fall for Kelso, nestled in the heart of the Scottish Borders. There’s plenty to keep you busy – from marvelling at its grand architecture to hanging out with some new furry alpaca friends.

    Things to do: Head to Floors Castle and marvel at its incredible interior and exterior design work. Just a short walk away, you’ll find the Victorian Walled Gardens and plenty of waymarked woodland and riverside walks to enjoy. Meet some new four-legged friends at Beirhope Alpacas. Choose between a leisurely stroll or if your legs are feeling up to the challenge, take on the Alpaca Trek where you’ll climb the hills of Beirhope and be treated to the stunning views of The Cheviots and Eildon Hills. Remember to bring your camera and smile with your new trekking buddy too!

    Travel: Catch the train from Edinburgh Waverley to Galashiels/Tweedbank station. When you hop off the train, get the bus to Kelso from the main bus terminal.

    Food & Drink: Make a reservation at The Waggon Inn. This family restaurant caters for all tastes and budgets. 

    Stay: Kelso

  11. The Kintyre Peninsula Argyll

    The Mull of Kintyre Peninsula at sunset

    © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

    The Kintyre Peninsula is home to a long stretch of deserted coastline, perfect for an escape from reality.

    Things to do: The dunes of Machrihanish Bay are a stunning sight and nearby Westport Beach is a haven for surfers thanks to the Atlantic swells. Have you really been to Kintyre without seeing the Mull of Kintyre from the lighthouse?! There’s a handful of golf courses here too, all with incredible coastal views.

    Take the wee ferry to the Isle of Gigha from Tayinloan, which takes just 20 minutes and spend a day wandering across the tiny island.

    Visit Campbeltown for a journey back in time. A peaceful place with three working distilleries, Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank, all of which offer incredible tours telling the story of the region. You can also try a local gin too, the Beinn an Tuirc Distillery produced at Kintyre Gin.

    Food & Drink: Book into The Boathouse for a delectable meal. With a great selection of fresh seafood and recognition from the Michelin Guide five years running, it’ll be a fining dining experience for sure.

    Stay: Campbeltown.

  12. Linlithgow Linlithgow

    Linlithgow Palace and St Michael's Parish Church by Linlithgow Loch

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved

    They say west is best and Linlithgow steps up to the mark. Once known as West Lothian’s county town, this historical gem lies between Edinburgh and Falkirk.

    Things to do: Discover the sights and history of Linlithgow from the water as you take a leisurely cruise down the canal, or if you prefer to stay on dry land, climb up Cockleroy Hill. Country parks are a great way to connect with nature and Beecraigs Country Park offers hours of excitement and exploration. Of course, a visit to Linlithgow wouldn’t be complete without visiting Linlithgow Palace. The palace is currently closed but you can still explore the gatehouse and grounds. Eagle-eyed fans of Outlander might recognise the palace when it made a starring role in the show as Wentworth Prison.

    Travel: Linlithgow is well served by rail routes connecting with Edinburgh, Glasgow, Falkirk, Stirling and Cumbernauld.

    Food & Drink: Featuring in the Michelin Guide, find your favourite dishes under one roof at The Champany Inn. From succulent cuts of steak, mouth-watering burgers and delicious desserts, you’ll be spoiled for choice!

    Stay: Linlithgow

  13. Isle of Hoy Orkney

    The path back to Rackwick from the Old Man Of Hoy.

    © VisitScotland / Colin Keldie

    Hoy is a unique part of the archipelago. It might remind you more of the north Highlands than the other Orkney isles, with tall cliffs, sandy bays and heathery hills all around.

    Things to do: It’s most famous for the iconic sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy, which stands at 137 m. You can see it along a three-hour round trip walk from the spectacular Rackwick Bay.

    Berriedale Wood can be found in amongst the towering hills of Hoy, a unique and special place to visit at all times of the year. Head into this hidden gully to find various species including downy birch, rowan, aspen and willow, and all kinds of wildlife too. The dramatic summits of Ward Hill and the Cuilags stand in stark contrast to the rest of Orkney, and can be seen from almost anywhere on the Orcadian mainland.

    The Dwarfie Stane is a huge boulder, left behind by a glacier, found in a deep valley and dating back to the last Ice Age. Remember to look up to spot nesting white-tailed eagles.

    Food & Drink: Stop by Emily’s Tearoom & Ice Cream Parlour for delicious homemade cakes and treats.

    Stay: Hoy or Stromness (for day trips)

  14. Unst Shetland

    Belmont House, & Wick of Belmont, Island of Unst, Shetland

    © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.

    Away from it all, Unst offers an island escape like no other. Rich with Viking history and folklore, it is thought to be the first island where the Vikings landed when they sailed west, with tales of battles with the local Pictish folk before settlement began. There are over 60 Viking longhouses across the island, making it one of the richest Viking sites in Europe.

    Things to do: You’ll see giant cliffs, sea stacks and sheltered bays which create a great home for a range of seabirds. Out at sea, you might see seals, porpoises and even whales. Take a coastal walk along the cliffs of the National Nature Reserve of Hermaness, one of the best places to see puffins up close. Don’t miss the most famous bus stop in the world, carefully decorated inside. You’ll find the most northerly distillery on Unst. Visit the Saxa Vord Distillery and try some Shetland whisky or the Shetland Reel Simmer Dim Gin

    Food & Drink: Stop by Victoria's Vintage Tea Rooms for tea and cake. Indulge in delicious chocolate brownies, freshly made scones and Victoria sponge, using only the best ingredients.

    Stay: Unst or Yell (for day trips)

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